Police Minister Bheki Cele came down hard on taxi bosses during Sunday’s crisis meeting to deal with the complexities of the “route invasions” that could be behind the killings of at least 13 people at ranks in Cape Town.
“Failure to do so means the ranks will close down,” said Congress of Democratic Taxi Associations spokesperson Besuthu Ndungane after the meeting between Cele, his deputy Bongani Mkongi, taxi bosses, Western Cape MECs for safety Dan Plato, and for transport Donald Grant, and the police.
Ndungane said Cele told them that the killings had to stop or he would be forced to take extraordinary measures, but the minister also assured them that the police would deal with anybody who is behind the shootings.
The meeting was held in Cape Town as a response to shootings around the city, especially the shootings in Delft, east of the city, which left 13 people dead.
Last Tuesday, one person was killed at the Joe Slovo taxi rank in Milnerton and six injured in a shooting, leading police to cordon the area off and conduct searches, yielding two firearms, and one imitation firearm, and impounding 12 taxis.
Grant has already asked Nzimande to help resolve the city’s taxi crisis.
Ndungane said Nzimande’s meeting was consultative, and the complexities of the latest upsurge in shootings around taxi ranks was recognised.
Three main causes were identified: alleged regulatory failure, route invasions, and illegal operators.
Factors such as the movement of people by the department of human settlements from Khayelitsha and Gugulethu to Delft, apparently without a proper transport needs assessment in Delft, were noted as one of the factors contributing to “route invasions” by other operators using a regulatory anomaly to gain ground on established routes.
This anomaly was a “proof of operation” period, which is a requirement to establish legitimacy before applying to authorities for an operating licence, the Codeta spokesperson explained.
This created a loophole and enabled “piracy”, particularly by operators who have grown up in a particular community and feel entitled to start their own routes without going through the operating regulations in place.
He said the City of Cape Town’s MyCiTi initiative had also allegedly oiled some of the conflict by paying taxi operators out for their routes, in exchange for allowing the new buses to drive those routes.
However, some of the operators the city paid out promptly set up new companies with their payouts, contributing to the current difficulties faced by an industry that moves up to 70% of the country’s commuter’s every day, he explained.
Ndungane added that the history of the taxi industry in South Africa is rooted in the apartheid government’s moving of black people from the country’s economic hubs.
“It is one of the ills of the past, and we have to correct it,” he said.
A spokesperson for Cele said he would provide details soon on the outcome of the meeting. — News24